Montreal Hosts Delayed Cop15 Summit To Halt ‘Alarming’ Global Biodiversity Loss | Surroundings

The date for a key UN nature summit has finally been confirmed after a delay of more than two years, and amid fears that momentum to halt biodiversity loss around the world has been lost.

Ahead of the final round of negotiations in Nairobi this week, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity confirmed the Cop15 biodiversity conference will now be held December 5-17 in Montreal, Canada, after it became clear China would not be able to , to host the event in Kunming due to the country’s zero Covid policy.

It comes after several pandemic-related delays to the meeting, which was due to take place in October 2020, and amid intense frustration with Beijing, which is chairing a major UN environment agreement for the first time.

Concerns had mounted about the prohibitive costs of smaller countries attending Cop15 if held in China, as well as concerns about restrictions on civil society, indigenous groups and the press.

At Cop15 – the 15th conference of the parties to the UN convention on biological diversity – governments will negotiate new targets to protect biodiversity for this decade. The accord, “a Paris agreement for nature”, aims to slow rampant biodiversity loss around the world and is part of the UN’s overarching plan that humanity should be living in harmony with nature by 2050. The summit was originally due to take place in Kunming, China, in October 2020 but after several delays the first face-to-face meeting is scheduled for December 2022 in Montreal, Canada.

Why is it a big deal?
Time is running out to take action. An international group of scientists, including Prof Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb, warned in January 2021 that the planet is facing a “ghastly future of mass extinction, declining health and climate-disruption upheavals” that threaten human survival. The world has failed to meet a single target agreed a decade ago to stem the destruction of wildlife and life-sustaining ecosystems.

Are only governments worried?
No. At the 2021 World Economic Forum, business leaders said biodiversity loss was the third biggest existential, or long-term, threat to the world and was among the top five risks in terms of impact, alongside infectious diseases, climate action failure, weapons of mass destruction and natural resource crises.

What might the Kunming agreement look like?
In January 2021, the UN convention on biological diversity published a 21-point draft of the agreement. It commits signatories to protect at least 30% of the planet, control invasive species and reduce pollution from plastic waste and excess nutrients by 50%. Governments are yet to negotiate properly on the draft targets. 

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What is the Kunming Biodiversity Conference?

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At Cop15 – the 15th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity – governments will negotiate new biodiversity protection targets for this decade. The agreement, “a Paris agreement for nature,” aims to slow the world’s biodiversity loss and is part of the United Nations’ overarching plan for humanity to live in harmony with nature by 2050. The summit was originally scheduled to take place in Kunming, China, in October 2020, but after several delays, the first in-person meeting is scheduled for December 2022 in Montreal, Canada.

Why is it a big deal?
Time is running out to act. An international group of scientists, including Prof. Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb, warned in January 2021 that the planet faces a “terrible future of mass extinction, declining health and climate-related upheaval” that threatens human survival threaten. The world has failed to meet a single goal agreed upon a decade ago to stem the destruction of wildlife and life-sustaining ecosystems.

Are only governments concerned?
no At the 2021 World Economic Forum, business leaders said biodiversity loss is the third-biggest existential or long-term threat facing the world and ranks among the top five risks in terms of impact, alongside infectious diseases, climate action failures, weapons failure, mass destruction and resource crises.

What could the Kunming Agreement look like?
In January 2021, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity published a 21-point draft of the agreement. It commits signatories to protecting at least 30% of the planet, controlling invasive species and reducing pollution from plastic waste and excess nutrients by 50%. Governments still have to properly negotiate the draft targets.

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At a meeting on Tuesday, officials signed the plan to host Cop15 near the UN headquarters for biodiversity in Quebec. China retains responsibility for hosting and organizing the event and will do so in coordination with the Canadian government.

Canada’s Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said the country was proud to host the conference. “There is an urgent need for international partners to halt and reverse the alarming global biodiversity loss,” he said.

The decennial nature summit will follow Egypt’s Cop27 but will clash with the World Cup in Qatar, raising fears of a lack of attention and participation from senior politicians and ministers, which was a key part of Cop26 in Glasgow, Scotland. The final Global Biodiversity Framework Agreement is expected to be negotiated in the hours leading up to the World Cup finals on December 18th.

At a parliamentary committee on Monday, Britain’s Environment Ministers Lord Goldsmith and George Eustice refused to confirm whether the Prime Minister would attend but said he was likely to play a role.

In a statement, China’s Environment Minister Huang Runqiu said the country would like to emphasize its continued strong commitment to working with all parties and stakeholders to ensure Cop15’s success.

The COP15 conference in Kunming before being canceled due to Covid in 2021.
A two-week meeting was held in Kunming in October ahead of the important summit, but most delegates attended virtually. Photo: Xinhua/Shutterstock

Negotiations on the deal are set to resume this week in Nairobi, Kenya, with significant disagreements over proposals to protect 30% of land and sea, money for biodiversity protection and the use of the digital sequence information to make cosmetics , medicines and other products.

Governments have never met a goal to stop the destruction of nature, and there are fears this deal will be a repeat of what happened before, amid concerns of a standoff with the global North and South over resources protection of natural places.

In March, at the end of the Geneva talks, came dramatic intervention by Gabon on behalf of a group of developing countries demanding $100bn (£80bn) in biodiversity finance, on top of the $100bn in climate finance previously earmarked for Divisions have caused Cop27.

Despite the clarity over the Cop15 date, Oscar Soria, campaigns director at activism website Avaaz, said talks had lost momentum and it was a missed opportunity to show environmental leadership.

“2020 should be the China-led super year for nature; Two years later, Beijing’s indecisiveness seriously jeopardized a diplomatic process to halt biodiversity loss.

“Now this super year of failure can only be averted by the leadership of the UN. We only have a few months and a lot of diplomatic work needs to be done. And while it’s now clear when and where the next cop will take place, a big question remains whether China can effectively hold the presidency as an ambitious deal for nature,” he said.

Li Shuo, Greenpeace China Political Advisor, said: “Governments have finally made a decision on where and when the Cop15 will take place. This should now draw everyone’s attention to the quality of the deal. That means ambitious targets to ensure strong protection both on land and at sea and a solid implementation package.

“At the forthcoming preparatory meeting in Nairobi, countries should advance the draft agreement. The remaining months until Cop15 should be used effectively to resolve contentious issues such as finances.”

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